CM . . .
. Volume IX
Number 5 . . . . November 1, 2002
This self-published, 105 page anti-bullying guide has been written by a woman who had been bullied for much of her K-9 school career. It is directed towards teenagers who are being bullied or towards their parents. Some of the information could also be helpful to younger students to help them deal with bullies. She refers to bullies as “criminals” because they rob others of their self-esteem and sense of security while feeling exhilarated by hurting someone who has done nothing to hurt them. She did have some positive ideas on how to deal with bullies. She recommended that, in order to help yourself, you need to be in control of yourself. Channel anger into something positive, proving that you are normal and worthy. Something positive could include some kind of physical exercise such as competitive or noncompetitive sports. Joining a drama club or other such school activities could be beneficial as well. These activities could help to build confidence on the inside so that any changes on the outside, such as style of dressing or hair style, could be incorporated to help improve your social life. She does suggest being very careful about any cosmetic surgery contemplated. When being bullied, people find it difficult to like themselves, and the above positive means might be just what are needed to stop the process of being a victim. Always give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt. Often the reasons for being bullied include the way you dress, the way you look, the way you act or speak, or just the fact that you appear in some way different from those who want to blend in or be with the “in” group.
The author gives a number of suggestions that are described in her six rules, as follows: 1) Don’t expect other people to stand up for you; 2) Don’t ignore your attackers; 3) Be ready to stand your ground; 4) Get quick with the comebacks; 5) Avoid physical fights; and 6) Kill ‘em with kindness. Although I agree with her Rule #5, I had some reservations about her other suggestions. I feel that Rule #1, for example, further isolates the children being bullied, and it would be better to encourage these students to involve their parents, teachers or other authority figures in supporting them and in attempting to sort out the problem. The one rule that I had the most difficult time with was Rule #4, get quick with the comebacks. I think that meeting insult or sharp comment with a comeback only encourages the bully to continue. This response could also lead to physical violence more readily, and, even though avoiding fighting is her Rule #5, always having comebacks could escalate the situation.
As a victim of bullying herself, the author relates personal episodes in her life to describe her pain and self doubt. Because of this, it does give her some credibility for writing such a book. A reservation that I have as a former classroom teacher on playground duty or in the classroom is that it takes a whole school or community to deal with the issue of bullying. Dealing with bullying on an individual basis is so much more difficult if students try to cope with it by themselves. If a whole school environment, including parents, teachers, students and school administrators, makes a conscious decision to deal with bullying as part of the discipline program, more can be accomplished as a group to overcome the problem.
Six websites on bullying are included at the end of the book plus one website on depression and one website on rage. The authors of the websites are not listed. I found the websites to be quite useful as they describe school programs from various American sources. However, because the author also wants the book to be sold in Canada, she should have included some Canadian content as well. I searched the Internet for bullying programs in Canada and found several sites including the Alberta program: www.stopbullyingme.ab.ca accessed August 21, 2002. Author: Citizens Against Bullying Association of Northern Alberta. I disagree with the author’s assumption that few materials are available to deal with this issue. More useful programs are becoming available as school divisions both in the United States and Canada strive to deal with the problem of bullying, especially following the tragedies at Columbine and other schools.
Another reservation that I have is the fact that she does not use any fiction or nonfiction literature as a springboard for class discussions. This is possibly because she does not have a teaching background. The use of such fiction books as Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, and nonfiction books such as Being Bullied by Joy Berry would be very helpful in dealing with the issue of bullying. I feel that this book might help teenagers who are being picked on to begin to learn how to overcome their feelings of inferiority, but I would only recommend it as part of a more formal program by a school or school division to work towards the elimination of bullying altogether. The issue continues to be brought to the public’s attention in the daily newspapers as a new school year is about to begin. This is important as bullying is a concern that needs to be kept current so that zero tolerance concerning bullying can eventually be realized.
Recommended with reservations.
Gary Evans is a retired primary teacher who now teaches the classes in teaching social studies both at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba.
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